“When I think about skateboarding pictures I always used to think about America, and then I met Lev and PWBC and they all looked really good, and it was very British, and they all dressed more like they were going to a football match than skating in Waterloo,” says Alasdair McLellan.
The photographer has since worked closely with Lev Tanju – founder of skate label Palace and instigator of the Palace Wayward Boys Choir (PWBC) – regularly shooting the label’s garms and team’s players since its launch in 2009.
In a week’s time the collaboration makes its boldest statement yet, as the ICA presents ‘Alasdair McLellan & Lev Tanju: The Palace’.
Not the only photographer to focus his lens on contemporary skate culture by any means (think Gosha Rubchinskiy, think Ian Kenneth Bird, the latter whom will likewise exhibit portraits in London next week), McLellan’s dip into the scene is part of a deeper fascination with British culture and identity.
While his black and white portrait of Adele fronts the singer’s most recent record, ‘25’, elsewhere his is a name synonymous with fashion photography, his Instagram account (71.2k followers and counting) displaying a considerable body of work, all of it demonstrating his trademark rich aesthetic.
Like previous accounts of his work, namely the physical titles ‘Ultimate Clothing Company’ and ‘Ceremony’, heavyweights that pose a visual exploration of modern British masculinity (the former) and the British Army’s ceremonial guards (the latter), McLellan’s contribution to ‘The Palace’ is a catalogue of male subculture in contemporary Britain.
“Alasdair was always interested in all of the crews, and also everything that went on outside of the actual skating. It’s a really personal thing and great memories of a time that was wicked for all of us,” asserts Tanju of the project. “I hope people see this as a nice little story documenting everything that was going on with Southbank, the skaters, Palace, PWBC.”
A follow up of sorts to Palace’s stint at Tate Britain (in 2013 Lev created a set of decks for the gallery inspired by the Romantic painter John Martin), the exhibition will also feature previously unseen “weird video stuff” from the crew’s head honcho, while an accompanying book is set to follow later in the summer, published by IDEA.
“Most brands don’t have a history like theirs, born out of hanging out on the Southbank,” reckons McLellan, “The exhibition at the ICA and The Palace book are a very honest and charming document of what this is all about.”
'Alasdair McLellan & Lev Tanju: The Palace' opens 8th July until the 24th.